“I’ve never done it, so I think I can.”
– Pippi Longstocking –
On balancing between adapting or staying yourself.
Pippi Longstocking does exactly what she likes and she behaves as if nothing puts her off.can shame her . The least we can say is that Pippi is stubborn. And headstrong. And individualistic .
And also, that these words often have a negative connotation. Most of us were raised with the idea that we should not be stubborn. Not individualistic andAnd certainly not headstrong.
How do we notice this in our own lives?
On the outside it looks like you have it completely together. You have an interesting job as an entrepreneur, manager, counsellor, teacher, health care expert, coach, etc ….
You have a lot of responsibilities, you’re busy, you have many friends, and, apparently, you walk a faultless path.
And yet something … is eating you up from inside.
Sometimes it’s as if you’ve forgotten what it’s really about for you now…
In this blog I look at what’s behind this.
And also how – by using Transactional Analysis (TA) – we can solve this.
The Ego States model in TA describes three different Eego Sstates. Or rather: the three ways we can position ourselves; the three ways in which we communicate; and in which we function.
1. The Free Child and the Adapted Child.
We refer to the Free Child when we talk about our own stubbornness, our own individualism. Just like Pippi Longstocking.
It’s the part of us that’s creative, the part that makes us think, feel, behave fundamentally differently from others. Spontaneously. We are, after all, actually quite different from each other. We have our own-ness.
Of course, we learn as children to adapt to the expectations that are placed on us. In the model of Ego States, we call this the Adapted Child. There is nothing wrong with that. Adaptation is necessary so that we can live together. And work together constructively.
Sometimes we just do the opposite of adaptation. We’re going to rebel against the expectations others – be the Rrebellious C child, completely uncooperative. That’s different than how Pippi Longstocking behaves. She never intends to be uncooperative. Just to do things her own way. And those are two different things.
Parents should bring up their children. That’s how it works. And socialisation is part of it. Parents tell their children how to behave in order to “fit in” and “be citizens who fulfil their responsibilities.” Of course there is nothing wrong with that in itself – on the contrary. So far, so good. We operate from our Parent ego state when we help others or when we are critical.
From our Adult ego state, we evaluate all the information and we take a decision. I function from my Adult state if I think well about it, consider what I feel and what I want. And also take into consideration my own values.
The adult considers the contribution of all positions and then takes a decision.
A good decision gets the approval of the Parent and the Child is happy.
Out of balance?
Sometimes, however, the equilibrium is not there.
Between on the one hand the Adaptation and on the other, what we really want. We have to consider what’s really healthy and good for us.
On the one hand we Adapt, and do what the Parent expects of us.
In itself that’s not a problem.
On the other hand, there are also our deepest desires, what we really want, we really dream about (our Free Child Ego State – Pippi Longstocking).
Sometimes we are even ashamed of our own stubbornness as if that’s something wrong. Belonging, acceptance, being normal and not standing out, can be more important than living our lives fully. We are scared of who we are and reject the deepest parts of ourselves.
At that moment there’s a wide gap between the inside and the outside. You don’t let your ‘stubborn’ identity be seen.
And that’s very tiring. Because from the outside it looks as if you have it together, but inside something is eating you up.
How does this happen?
Let’s take a look at parenting.
In bringing up children shame is sometimes used as a technique or method. “Shame on you,” say parents when children … Or “Who do you think you are?” if the child keeps their stubborn own opinion. Or more subtly, “why don’t you do this or that,”…
The assumption is that whichever option the parents choose is really the best. Whereas the option that the child puts forward isn’t really considered.
At that moment the child is left alone with their own stubbornness , and thoughts and feelingsindividualism. They are alone with their own desires and needs and the feelings that go with them.
Deep inside the child will get the feeling that it is only OK if they meet the conditions: study hard, get good job, work hard, take responsibility. And will be ashamed of their own stubbornnessunique thoughts and feelings.
That shame will act as a brake on their creativity, on making their own choices, drag down their self-confidence and LIVING LIFE TO THE FULL.
How does this manifest itself in your professional life?
This pattern sometimes also repeats itself in companies or teams.
Managers behave (like an omniscient parent) as if they have a monopoly on wisdom and don’t invite workers to think out of the box and be their idiosyncratic unique selves. The employees are instead invited to Adapt and to stop their own initiatives. They sometimes even feel ashamed (Adapted Child).
New employees, often young, start their professional careers with the “handbrake on”. Just as they’ve left the parental nest, or sometimes not even yet, they are focused on the expectations that are placed on them.
Work hard and fast, make sure you satisfy others, and don’t make mistakes.
A similar process is seen in the advice and health Sectorsassistance and care worlds.
Often clients or patients place the care worker on a pedestal and place themselves underneath.
They cultivate the myth that the doctor, social worker, nurse, psychologist etc., all know better and that they themselves know nothing at all. While they are in fact the experts on their own lives.
It can be different!
However many managers would like it to be different. They DO want young workers to retain their creativity, take pleasure in their work, and come everyday with their own ideas.
Many social workers do want their clients to live independently, to take responsibility for their lives.
How do you do that? How do you invite people to try things out and to learn from their mistakes?
How do you get to a lifestyle in which Pippi Longstocking comes to play takes part, but obviously hasn’t got everything her own waydoesn’t control everything .
How do you do this?
You take a piece of paper and you draw the three spherescirkels.
You can do this for yourself, so you find out what you really want for yourself and where your priorities really lie.
You can also ask someone to do this for you.
Or you can also use it to coach an employee. Or a client. To find out what the client really wants. Also, to get a realistic picture of the possibilities and limitations.
And then you fill in withwrite about the different positions words, ideas, guidelines .
Please keep in mind that none of these positions is positive or negative.
And that every position has something meaningful to contribute.
You start with the Parent position:
Critical Parent: You ask yourself: What are the critical things I say to myself? For example, “to be OK, I have to work a little harder. I should produce more results … etc.,” you repeat in your head all the critical things you have heard from your parents.
Caring Parent: “It would be good for me, for example, to take more holidays. Or that I get coaching. Or follow a course.” You repeat all the good advice you’ve ever been given or that you’d like to give to yourself.
Free Child (the Pippi Longstocking in us): You’re going to think about what you would really like. What you really want for yourself. For example, “for me to feel calm and happy … go on a journey … baking an apple pie…”
Adapted Child: “What am I afraid of … what makes me feel small… what do I feel ashamed of ….”
Rebel: “What am I going to fight against…What don’t I really want?”
And then finally the Adult: if I put that all in perspective, what conclusion do I come to? …
This exercise really helps to resolve ambiguities or contradictions.
Because taking the different positions helps with taking a decision.
Even to channel your inner Pippi Longstocking. But not only Pippi Longstocking…
Are you a manager who wants to get the best out of your people so that they fully use their own talents?
As a coach would you like to learn how you can help people discover what their ‘unique own way’ is, simply because it’s healthier?
Do you work in a helping profession and want to help others in such a way that they don’t become dependent on you, but rather, as much as possible and for as long as possible stand on their own feet, and take their own initiatives?
Do you want to understand how to get more out of yourself or your participants or out of those seeking help?
Would you like to take a big step forward again both personally and professionally?
Or do you want to learn how to manage others more effectively in your profession or learn how to coach? So that you have a team that also has room for creativity and originality. Where people feel better and function more healthily.
Would that be a nice goal?
Do you want that too?
Then register now for the two-day Introduction to Transactional Analysis.
Transactional Analysis provides, via the Ego States, a good model for understanding communication. It also provides us with tools to bring about profound changes.